The Cat’s Meow

Seeing Straight With Image Stabilized Binoculars

Capt. Mike Genoun July 17, 2013

A rugged set of weatherproof marine binoculars is absolutely essential for successful offshore fishing and safe navigation. If you don’t already, you should consider binoculars a must have tool. Even though you may not use them during every outing, binoculars provide superhero vision and are beneficial in more ways than one. Seasoned charter boat skippers have lost count of how many times advanced optics have helped them spot some form of distant fish-attracting structure they wouldn’t have located otherwise. Whenever we head offshore aboard our SeaVee a set of 7×50 Steiners is always sitting on the dash and they’ve certainly led us to some truly remarkable encounters.

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Magnifying distant objects and barely visible shorelines, IS binoculars are an invaluable tool. Photo: FSF MAG

The only problem with using binoculars on the water is the tremble, jitter and roll associated with everyday boating. The disorienting motions are magnified by the optics and ultimately degrade the image. Throw in a crisp chop and the ability to focus on distant objects can become quite challenging. When an invitation presented itself to test a pair of image stabilized binoculars that claim to alleviate these common problems, I jumped at the opportunity. So impressed with the performance, I couldn’t wait to share what I learned.

Eye relief must also be considered, which is the minimum distance at which you must hold the eyepieces away from you. This is especially important for those who wear eyeglasses…

For starters, image stabilization can be accomplished in different ways with a number of proprietary systems in place from a handful of leading manufacturers. Fraser Optics is a leader in the industry and produces impressive optics that are uniquely engineered with STEDI-EYE® Technology, giving professionals a competitive edge by eliminating 98 percent of motion and greatly enhancing visual clarity. Only Fraser Optics offers advanced gyro-stabilized binoculars backed by proven performance in both military and law enforcement operations. In fact, Fraser Optics pioneered the technology.

Gyro-stabilization is based on the principle of conservation of angular momentum. The gyro consists of a motor and flywheel. When spinning at full speed the unit resists changes to its orientation due to the angular momentum of the flywheel. In plain English, when the unit shakes in one direction, the gyro moves in the opposite direction. Through manipulation of the prisms, gyro-stabilization results in a pure, crisp image regardless of pitch, roll and yaw. With impressive magnification and a large field of view, they are more than adequate for whatever on-the-water activity you enjoy. The Mariner is even housed in a buoyant and highly visible yellow boot in case you accidentally drop it overboard.

Along with a crisp image, stabilized binoculars offer another huge benefit by substantially increasing magnification. While standard binoculars typically provide 7x magnification, stabilized technology is capable of 14, 15, even 20x magnification. The amplified vision results in an incredible difference and gives users the power to see what is out there substantially further than ever before, and in perfect clarity. Since I’ve gotten my hands on this test pair of IS binoculars I won’t even touch my standard glass.

If I have you convinced this is a worthy investment, there are a few key factors to consider before swiping your credit card. First, magnification and objective lens diameter are critical. These measurements are always described together. The first number refers to the magnification. While higher magnification allows you to see objects in the distance, it will narrow your field of view. A magnification of 14x will perform exceptionally well in most circumstances, whereas magnifications of 20x or more are best suited for astronomy. The second measurement is lens diameter. Large lenses allow increased light to enter the binoculars and reach your eye. It seems 40mm and 50mm lenses are pretty standard, with the latter a bit heavier. The tradeoff to the added weight is exceptional performance in low light conditions.

Field of view, provided as FOV, is the measurement of visible area when viewing subjects from 1,000 yards away. Eye relief must also be considered, which is the minimum distance at which you must hold the eyepieces away from you. This is especially important for those who wear eyeglasses, so be sure to purchase a set of image stabilized binoculars that are comfortable for you.

In the event you are trying to find the entrance to an unfamiliar harbor or need to quickly locate a crewmember who’s accidentally gone overboard, IS binoculars could really save the day. Step up to advanced image stabilized binoculars and you’ll become a hero as you spot surface busting game fish from afar! Though the technology doesn’t come cheap, every time you peer into the distance you’ll be amazed with what you see.

The Future Is Now

Along with IS binoculars, Fraser Optics offers a more affordable image stabilized 14×40 Monolite retailing for around $1,999. Incorporating the same advanced STEDI-EYE® technology and user-friendly features as its bigger brother, the Monolite can easily connect to an iPhone, iPad, or Galaxy phone, providing a wide viewing screen and greatly enhanced zoom capabilities. Once connected, still images and real time video can be captured, stored and shared.

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